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DNA-Testing to Tailor Diets can be Effective, Study Reports

Update Date: Nov 14, 2014 02:12 PM EST

People's genetic makeup could one day be used to create one-of-a-kind diet plans, a new study out of the University of Toronto (U of T) reported. The researchers stated that this tailored diet can be more effective in improving people' eating habits.

For this study, the researchers recruited 138 healthy young adults. Their intake of caffeine, sodium, vitamin C and sugar were all recorded. The sample was randomly divided into two groups, which were the DNA-based and control groups. People in the DNA-based diet group received personalized nutrition recommendations based on their genetics. This field of research, called nutrigenomics, can help explain why the body reacts in different ways to certain foods. The team assessed the participants' diets after three and 12 months.

"We conducted the first randomized controlled trial to determine the impact of disclosing DNA-based dietary advice on eating habits," said Ahmed El-Sohemy, an Associate Professor in Nutritional Sciences at U of T and Canada Research Chair in Nutrigenomics. "We found that people who receive DNA-based advice improve their diet to a greater extent than those who receive the standard dietary advice. They're also the ones who need to change it the most."

More specifically, the researchers found that people who had a gene tied to salt intake were able to effectively reduce their sodium consumption.

"This study addresses some notable limitations in previous studies that attempted to measure the impact of disclosing genetic information on lifestyle changes," said El-Sohemy according to the press release. "Previous studies focused on disease risk prediction rather than metabolic genes that affect specific components of the diet. This is the first time that the impact of dietary advice based on diet-related genes with specific actionable advice has been tested."

The study was published in the journal, PLOS ONE.

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